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State gets low marks in teacher training

Friday, July 13, 2007

Missouri needs to do more to improve the quality of classroom teachers, a national study says.

A three-year study of state regulations regarding preparation and licensing of teachers gave Missouri and 17 other states low marks.

But a state education official insists that Missouri's classrooms have quality teachers. "I think Missouri certainly is in the top half if you compare us to the rest of the nation," said Rusty Rosenkoetter, coordinator of education certification for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The state licenses about 8,000 new teachers each year. At the same time, about 7,000 teachers retire annually, she said. In all, Missouri has about 80,000 licensed teachers in public schools and about 12,000 licensed teachers in private schools.

The study was released late last month by the not-for-profit National Council on Teacher Quality in Washington, D.C. The organization advocates for reforms to increase the number of effective teachers. The study found that nationwide:

* States don't adequately oversee teacher preparation programs.

* States neglect content preparation for elementary school teachers.

* States don't ensure that special education teachers are well prepared to teach students with disabilities.

* States lack true alternate routes to teacher certification.

* States don't do enough to weed out ineffective teachers.

Missouri received low marks -- C's and D's -- in its regulations dealing with quality, licensing and evaluation of teachers, state governance of teacher preparation programs, alternate routes to teacher certification and preparation of special education teachers.

Academic courses

The council believes elementary school teachers should be required to take more academic subject courses, such as American history. Missouri, like most states, requires its elementary education majors to take courses in four main academic areas: math, science, social studies and communication arts.

Would-be elementary school teachers have to have a liberal-arts background, Rosenkoetter said. "They don't have to take American history. However, I can think of few college graduates who haven't had American history," she said.

Alternate paths

The study also says Missouri's and most other states' alternate certification policies don't meet the needs of nontraditional teaching candidates who have worked in other professions and now want to pursue teaching careers.

"They think the alternate route requires too much effort," Rosenkoetter said of the council's criticism. "They would like a more fast-track system."

But she questioned the wisdom of such a system. "I am not sure how you do that and maintain quality," she said.

Missouri requires such teaching candidates to take certain education courses to obtain state teaching licenses. About 2 percent of elementary and secondary education teachers in Missouri have alternate certification, Rosenkoetter said.

Special education

The study says Missouri and other states don't require prospective special education teachers to take academic subject courses that relate to courses they would be teaching in school districts.

That criticism has merit, Rosenkoetter said, but changing the training of special education teachers could be difficult.

If Missouri had such a requirement, school districts would have to hire more special education teachers or resort to a model where special education teachers would be in the same classrooms with regular teachers, she said.

"I think it is not an easy problem to fix," she said.

Evaluating teachers

States, Missouri included, fail to hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the quality of their graduates, according to the report.

Only 14 states require annual performance evaluations of classroom teachers, the study said.

Missouri school districts annually evaluate teachers during their first five years of teaching, Rosenkoetter said.

"At the end of five years in Missouri, teachers are granted tenure. After that, they are usually evaluated every other year," she said.

Local school officials say the current evaluation system works. They say there's no need to evaluate tenured teachers every year.

All teachers in Missouri have to take professional development classes to maintain their state certifications, said Dr. Rita Fisher, assistant superintendent of instruction for the Jackson School District.

Southeast Missouri State University trains teachers, graduating about 350 education majors each year.

"Students from our specific programs are really sought after because we have good programs," said Dr. Beverly Petch-Hogan, interim chairwoman of the elementary, early and special education department at Southeast.

While the study focuses on the policies of state education departments, Fisher said teacher quality ultimately rests with the individual school districts. "It is just so important that individual districts take responsibility for that," she said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123


Missouri's report card

The National Council on Teacher Quality studied states' preparation and licensing of teachers. Missouri's scores:Meeting teacher quality objectives: D

Teacher licensing: D

Teacher evaluation: C

State oversight of teacher preparation programs: D

Alternate routes to teacher certification: C

Preparation of special education teachers: D

SOURCE: National Council on Teacher Quality


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Dr. Fisher is incorrect. A teacher with a lifetime certificate does NOT have to take any further courses or workshops of any kind to retain their license. I verified this information with DESE.

-- Posted by SEMOfan80 on Fri, Jul 13, 2007, at 8:59 AM

Many of today's adult success stories were taught by Missouri teachers with 60 to 90 college hour certificates. Their students knew how to read, pronounce, cipher and were endowed with a historical loyalty to God and country.

For thirty or more years we have had the B.S., B.A. or higher degree teachers. We still have success stories to be proud of, but something has happened that has caused societal changes. Some good, some bad!

What could the change be? And are teachers totally responsible?

-- Posted by hehall on Fri, Jul 13, 2007, at 11:13 AM

hehall: The big change is that 40 or 50 years ago teaching could attract the best & brightest females to the field because of their lack of opportunity elsewhere. These days the smartest woman typically choose to go into medicine, law, or business. Fields where the salary & status is more commensurate to their level of skill. Top talent brings quality far more effectively than any amount of extra training could.

-- Posted by Nil on Fri, Jul 13, 2007, at 12:18 PM

While it is true that teachers with a lifetime certificate are not required by the state to maintain their certification---individual districts who employ such teachers DO require professional development. I have a lifetime certificate and I attend many hours of professional development---not because I have to---but because it makes me a better teacher. I suspect that this is the case with most teachers who are not required by the state to have additional PD.

-- Posted by JaysFan_20 on Fri, Jul 13, 2007, at 12:22 PM

Nil: The biggest change is that 40-50 years ago teachers were able to focus on teaching. Today's teachers also have to be social workers, babysitters, substitute parents, crisis negotiators, and occasionally martial artists. And hopefully somewhere in the middle of all that they manage to work with kids.

And what's with the inference that we're only talking about women? In case you haven't heard, men are entering the profession these days, too.

I hope your comment means that you will support an increase in your taxes to help improve the situation.

-- Posted by CapeRacer on Fri, Jul 13, 2007, at 5:01 PM

CapeRacer: I think you misunderstood what I said. 40-50 years ago if you were the smartest 18 year old women in town you had very limited career options. Nursing, Teaching, Secretarial, etc... That let teaching get alot of highly intelligent and motivated individuals into the field.

Free of decades of sexual discrimination the teaching profession has failed to compete for those elite talents. Sure lots of smart people (women & men) go into the field, but for the most part they aren't getting the cream of the intellectual crop. Teaching salaries & status just can't compete with other occupations for the top 5%-10% of talent. Salary would fix some of that, but some of the lack is still residual sexism(seen as "womens work"). Nursing has bounced back as a profession in the last decade or two due to the higher salaries and demand, but the social status takes a while to catch up. So the solution takes both tax money & respect to solve.

-- Posted by Nil on Sat, Jul 14, 2007, at 3:52 PM

caperacer - i agree with you - teachers spend wasted time being all of the above you cited rather than focusing 110% on teaching. its the culture of parents that has evolved. it crosses all economic, cultural, geographical lines...

-- Posted by insider63785 on Sat, Jul 14, 2007, at 3:58 PM


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